The Runaway

Lately, our Nation’s Capital has been plagued with many reports of missing children and teens. Some have most likely fallen victim to human trafficking and some are being typical adolescents, overwhelmed with issues effecting their mental and physical being.

I remember when I was eight years old, and I decided to run away from home because I couldn’t have my way. My mother had just told me “no” to a request to go spend the night over my best friend’s house, after an earlier rejection to my demand for another Cabbage Patch Kid, and a piece of chocolate cake. The scale was tipped, my mind was settled and I put my departure plans in motion.

Let me be clear, I grew up in a loving environment where both parents were present and were committed to their authority over my life and well being. But apparently, I felt that my mother’s logic was unreasonable and went against my decision to eat all the sweets I wanted, and to increase the size of my baby doll family. As the “spoiled child” peered its snotty head, I began packing my bag by placing one pair of underwear, a nightgown, my toothbrush, my Tussy deodorant and a pair of slippers. Before zipping up the duffel bag, I laid my two favorite children, Danielle Nicole and Alistair, on top of my evening attire and set out on my stubborn mission.

Before departing, I wrote a note and placed it on my mother’s pillow and headed out the door. I walked past many neighbors who knew me well enough to ask where I was headed, but they all just said “hello” and cleared a path for my journey.  I walked around the backside of my yard, observed friends getting a dose of unintentional cardio workouts while playing hopscotch and jumping rope on the sidewalks.

Fifteen minutes later into my stroll, I began to feel homesick, and hungry. I made a loop around the block, dragging my duffel bag and neglecting my kids. I walked past the same neighbors I saw on my departure route, entered my front door and unpacked my lightly supplied runaway bag.  I remember walking into my mother’s room and noticed the note I left was still neatly folded, lying on her pillow.  I felt a rush of relief, and then disappointment as I heard the front door close and my mother and her friend from next door chatting and laughing.  It seems she was unaware of my attempt to flee the nest, because I was supposed to be outside where she had given me permission to play with my friends.  I felt defeated that no one took notice of my brief absence, however I was relieved that my mother didn’t experience any pain upon finding out that I wasn’t outside with my crew, but instead roaming the streets unattended.

I eventually came clean about my plans to leave after squeezing in time for apologies, hugs and kisses. I showed my mother the note, and she smiled and took the letter to store in her “crazy things she does” box.  My mom and I have always been close and the conversation we had after that stupid attempt to break free from protection, gave me a greater sense of love and friendship with my mom.  She didn’t ever want me to leave and she made sure I understood that my place was with her.

Now, in present day, the epidemic of runaways has so many variables that play a part in a  young person’s decision to flee. The issues that many of the youth face today are far more heavier than not being able to get a new Cabbage Patch Kid, or spending the night over a friend’s house. Issues like insecurities, mental health diseases, lack of support, drug infested environments, sexual abuse, parental absence, etc.  I can truly understand how young people slip through the cracks of being unattended, especially when adults are caught up in their own issues to recognize something out of place, like a child walking aimlessly with no direction…and a duffel bag.

My circumstances could have really been different if a white van pulled up on me and lured me inside with promises that would entice a young eight year old child.  If one neighbor would’ve stopped me and asked what was I was doing, or if my mother knew I was walking down the street away from our house…I would’ve felt like someone cared enough to keep me from my journey.  The blessing is this…I lived in a community in a time where people were close and extremely nosy, so I doubt a white van would’ve had a chance to pull up on me and lure me inside.   Though my neighbors allowed me to walk through many checkpoints, I truly believe if I hadn’t decided to cut my walk around the block short, someone would’ve snitched and my mother and her crew would’ve been pulling up on me by the time I made it to the next block over.

But today, in the atmosphere of uncertainty, mistrust, pedophiles and human trafficking, I task all of us as adults to pay attention in greater detail, to not only our own children, but the children we see on the streets that look misplaced and misguided, hoping for that one familiar face to change their course of action.


Speak Your Mind